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Saturday, October 23, 2004

One Vote, One Time?

Is Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq's near future? What does President Bush think about that?

Let me direct you to a story from the AP Wire | 10/18/2004 | Excerpts From Bush Interview:
"Q: If the people in Iraq, in a free, democratic election, someday choose an Islamic fundamentalist government, is that all right with you?

BUSH: I will be disappointed, but democracy is democracy. They have now got a - the beginnings of a constitution, the TAL, which sends a different message, that there will be tolerance and an open society. But people - if that's what the people choose, that's what the people choose."
So much for minority rights -- and separation of church and state.

My advice to the President? Prepare to be disappointed.

Consider this Iraqi polling data from the US-government funded International Republican Institute as reported Friday, October 22, in the Washington Post:
Leaders of Iraq's religious parties have emerged as the country's most popular politicians and would win the largest share of votes if an election were held today, while the U.S.-backed government of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi is losing serious ground, according to a U.S.-financed poll by the International Republican Institute.
The former Pentagon favorite, Ahmed Chalabi, is favored by only 15% of the electorate, and opposed by more than half.

They aren't talking about it publicly, but administration officials apparently realize the worst is ahead:
Within the Bush administration, a victory by Iraq's religious parties is viewed as the worst-case scenario. Washington has hoped that Allawi and the current team, which was selected by U.S. and U.N. envoys, would win or do well in Iraq's first democratic election, in January. U.S. officials believe a secular government led by moderates is critical, in part because the new government will oversee writing a new Iraqi constitution.

"The picture it paints is that, after all the blood and treasure we've spent and despite the [U.S.-led] occupation's democracy efforts, we're in a position now that the moderates would not win if an election were held today," said a U.S. official who requested anonymity because the poll has not been released.
Jimmy Carter's presidency has long been tarnished for allowing Iran to move from an authoritarian ally to an Islamic enemy.

Will Bush move Iraq from a secular, weak, and contained state to a theocratic Iranian ally?

Well, Iranian theocrats must like their chances:
The poll found the most popular politician is Abdel Aziz Hakim, leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The group was part of the U.S.-backed opposition to Saddam Hussein and is now receiving millions of dollars in aid from Iran, U.S. officials say.

Hakim had 80 percent name recognition among Iraqis, with more than 51 percent wanting to see him in the national assembly, which will pick a new government.

...The one factor that skews the poll, analysts said, is that Ibrahim Jafari, the Dawa Party chief and current vice president, was not included. He had the highest popularity rating in previous polls.

That may still be the case, since almost 18 percent of Iraqis surveyed by IRI said they were most likely to vote for Dawa candidates -- the largest backing among the top 11 parties listed. Dawa is another former U.S.-backed group supported by aid from Iran, U.S. officials say.
US Iraq policy is like one long disaster movie that just won't end.

Thanks to Mark Kleiman for the link to the Bush quote.

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